This story is by Patricia (Trish) Perry and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
Delilah Brennan peeked out the back window of her house and saw the muffled sun trying to punch a hole through the overcast sky. She grabbed a sweater from her closet and slipped it on. Roxie, her golden retriever, was at her side like a shot and together, they headed outside for their daily walk. At sixty-one, it was important to Delilah that she remain as active as possible.
A cold breeze stirred the brightly colored leaves lying along the path as Delilah climbed the hill behind her house to her favorite spot. She had discovered the path purely by accident several years ago when Roxie had darted out the front door into the backyard. Delilah had chased after her but, when she reached the foot of the hill, she tripped over a vine covered cobblestone pathway and tumbled to her knees. Roxie ran on and Delilah lay on the ground wailing and holding her knee.
Hearing the screams of her mistress, Roxie ran back from exploring the hillside, and the pair returned to the house where Delilah assessed the damage to her knee. Luckily, bandaging and resting her leg did the trick.
Excited about her unearthing, Delilah returned the next day and carefully followed the path to the top where she discovered a lush garden filled with an array of well-tended trees and crops. Stone paved trails winding in different directions displayed richly colored flowers and foliage. Assortments of birds and butterflies flit playfully through the sweet smelling air, and small animals scurried mischievously throughout the brush. Delilah stared in awe at the beauty that surrounded her.
It suddenly occurred to her that whoever owned the land might not want her there. Delilah quietly searched the area but found no one. She decided that she would continue to take her walks later in the afternoon to lessen the chance of being caught. For six years, she had been visiting the garden and hadn’t encountered any problems.
The phone rang. Delilah knew before she answered it that it was her best friend Lilly. Lilly called at the exact same time each day to check on Delilah and chat about tidbits of gossip she picked up during her daily travels around town. At first, the calls got on Delilah’s nerves. But since she had no family, she soon became thankful that there was someone in the world that cared about her. Delilah rose and walked to the phone. Roxie lifted her head and groaned with disgust that the noise had interrupted her nap.
“Hello,” Delilah said.
Like always, Lilly sang her greeting. “It’s meee”.
“Hi you. How was your day?” Delilah asked.
“Not bad. Kind of hectic. I had to see Dr. Warton this morning, and then Lyndy dropped Katrina off this afternoon while she went to work for a few hours.”
“What did Dr. Warton say? Is everything alright?”
“I have to go get another mammogram, but he thinks it will be fine.”
“Do you want me to go with you?”
“Would you mind? You know how anxious I get.”
“Just let me know when your appointment is and I’ll pick you up. Maybe we can go shopping or get a bite to eat depending on what time they schedule you.”
“How’s Katrina? Was she the same little terror as last time?”
“She got a little rowdy, but I let her run through the sprinklers and that helped. How was your day?”
“It was fine. I ran errands and went on my afternoon walk.”
“One of these days you’ll have to show me that garden you love so much.”
“Sure, whenever you want,” Delilah replied, though she felt nervous about taking Lilly with her.
“Well, gotta run. Talk to you later.”
“Okay, Bye bye.”
Delilah hung up the phone and went into the kitchen to fix dinner. When it was done, she put her plate on a tray, carried it into the living room, and turned on the television. Roxie’s nose twitched when she smelled the food but Delilah had strict rules about feeding her.
“I’ll feed you when I’m done,” she said and took a bite of toast. She found an old movie she hadn’t seen in years and decided that would do while she ate. Sometimes she really hated being alone.
Calila loved to perch her thin child-like body on the highest limbs of the large oak trees in the garden and sway in the breeze, flapping her large round wings with the motion of the tree. She had lived here with her tribe for over two hundred years of peace and prosperity. But, over the past decade, changes in the temperature had influenced the growth of their food. Large numbers of the tribe became sick and passed on to the kingdom of the moon.
Times became particularly bleak after the head of the tribe expired, and the remaining council members called a meeting in which it was decided that whoever was strong enough to travel should leave and search for another garden where they might make a new home. The very ill could not be moved, but they also could not take care of themselves.
Among the last group to leave were Calila’s parents, Romani and Shone, two of the tribe’s sacred judges. After fasting for three days, they decided it was Calila’s duty to remain behind and care for the frail. Shone made sure that there were enough resources for his daughter to live on. He also taught her how to make medicinal teas and broths to feed the sick, and how to tend the newly planted crops. He hoped that somehow she might be able to get them to flourish in his absence. It was agreed that Shone would return in six months.
After a tearful goodbye, Calila worked tirelessly to fulfill her father’s wishes. In spite of her efforts, the sick became worse and one by one, they joined their ancestors. Calila slowly became the only survivor and now, she spent her days in the trees and her nights sleeping in the underground tunnel that had been her home for as long as she could remember.
In spite of her loneliness and sense of failure, Calila continued to work hard to get the crops to prosper. She knew her father was due to return soon, and she desperately wanted to make him proud of her.
Delilah awoke full of energy. She completed her chores and after lunch she took Roxie with her to town in the old blue pickup truck she bought ten years ago that still ran like a charm. When she returned home, she got ready for her walk.
The weather was beautiful. Delilah took deep breaths of fresh air as she climbed slowly up the hill. Roxie ran ahead as always and reached the top before Delilah did. As Delilah stepped from the hill onto the green lawn, she spotted a peculiar looking elf-like creature with large round wings sitting in the tree straight ahead of her. Delilah froze in her tracks. Roxie circled the tree, barking and growling. The small being huddled close to the thick branch and stared at Delilah, its eyes open wide.
Delilah wasn’t frightened. Instead, this phenomenal creature intrigued her. The same was not true for Roxie who continued to circle the tree until Delilah admonished her.
Delilah inched closer, and as she did, the creature inched down the tree branch toward her. But when Delilah reached out to touch the wondrous being, it spread its wings and darted into the air. It flew rapidly, just above the treetops, occasionally swooping down and hovering a few feet in front of her as if it was playing a game. Delilah giggled and clapped her hands like a small child. She couldn’t remember the last time she was this happy.
The joyful exchange went on until the sun was getting so low that Delilah worried she would have to walk home in the dark. Reluctantly, she left. Delilah knew that she had made some type of connection with the wondrous being in the garden, and the next day when she arrived, it would rise from the trees again. This thought made her loneliness bearable.
Calila soared above the trees and watched as the two outsiders she saw today walked down the hill. She wasn’t sure what to make of these strange creatures. She felt the one with two legs was friendly, but she wasn’t so sure about the one with four legs. For a short time, her heart felt happy and now it ached again from being alone. She hoped that these odd beings would return again soon. She would perch in the high branches of the oak tree and wait for them to return.